KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Jennifer Garretson brought her 3-year-old son to the Cinemark Palace in Kansas City, she was shocked to be turned away.

Garretson was one of several parents who hadn't heard that as of July 4, children under 6 were no longer welcome at the movie theater — even if they were accompanied by their parents.

"We didn't know anything about it, so it was kind of rotten," said Garretson, of Wichita, Kan., standing next to her 3-year-old son, Samuel.

On Saturday, several young children carried signs protesting the theater's new policy, which also prohibits children between ages 6 and 16 unless they are accompanied by a parent.

Theater officials have said they are not trying to exclude children but instead are reinforcing a more adult-oriented film menu.

Terrell Falk, spokeswoman for Dallas-based Cinemark USA, said the theater would no longer show movies rated G or PG. Instead, fliers in the lobby announced the theater will show "adult films, independent films and films geared toward adult audiences."

The Palace also has a VIP room, where adults can drink alcohol and sit in recliners while watching a movie.

Theater staff appeared to be stopping families with children who clearly were younger than 6.

"I can see that part about having a parent along, but if the parents are there with their children, it's crazy," said Sherry Parks of Chillicothe, Mo.

Gigi Lanear of Kansas City and her 4-year-old son Darion were among those turned away.

"I think it's stupid," she said. "If you're going to have PG-13 movies, it's not the little kids that will fuss; it's the teenagers."